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Hypersexuality in Mixed-Sex Couples: A Dyadic Longitudinal Study

Abstract

Emotion dysregulation and intimacy problems are theoretically underpinned correlates of hypersexuality (i.e., uncontrollable sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviors resulting in distress and impairment in different areas of functioning), but the directionality of these associations has not been established, as work in this area has relied on cross-sectional designs. Moreover, although hypersexuality may have significant adverse effects on romantic relationships and approximately half of treatment-seeking individuals are in a relationship, prior studies almost exclusively involved samples of men, regardless of their relationship status. The aim of the present study was to examine the directionality of associations between both partners’ emotion dysregulation, physical (i.e., partnered sexual frequency) and relationship intimacy, and hypersexuality using a longitudinal, dyadic framework. Self-reported data of 267 mixed-sex couples (Mage_men = 29.9 years, SD = 8.2; Mage_women = 27.7 years, SD = 6.7) at baseline (T1) and six-month follow-up (T2) were analyzed using a crossed-lagged model within an actor–partner interdependence framework. Prior greater emotion dysregulation (T1) in both men and women was associated with their own later greater hypersexuality (T2). Women’s prior greater hypersexuality (T1) was associated with their later lower relationship intimacy (T2). Lower levels of intimacy were not significantly associated with later hypersexuality. No partner effects were found in relation to hypersexuality. Findings suggest that men and women may use sexual behaviors to cope with negative emotions, which could, in turn, lead to hypersexuality. Intimacy problems did not precede hypersexuality, although women’s hypersexuality may reduce their own relationship intimacy over time.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Independent studies including large samples of men and women using taxometric analysis suggested that hypersexuality should be considered as a dimensional construct as opposed to being a categorical one (for details, see Bőthe et al. [2019a]; Graham et al. [2016]).

  2. To determine whether the examined associations were significantly different between men and women, we compared the original, unconstrained model to a model in which all paths were constrained to be equal between both partners. The corrected chi-square difference test (χ2 = 41.65, p = .014) indicated a significant difference between the unconstrained and the fully constrained models, suggesting that the associations differed significantly between men and women. Considering the gender-based differences in the original, unconstrained model, we pushed forward this difference test by specifically constraining the associations between prior levels of hypersexuality (T1) and later relationship intimacy (T2). The corrected chi-square difference test (χ2 = 3.86, p = .049) indicated a significant difference between the two models, suggesting that men and women differ regarding the associations between hypersexuality (T1) and relationship intimacy (T2).

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Laurence de Montigny Gauthier and Mylène Desrosiers for their assistance with data collection.

Funding

This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the SCOUP Team–Sexuality and Couples–Fonds de recherche du Québec, Société et Culture and by the Merit Scholarship Program for Foreign Students (PBEEE) awarded by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement Supérieur (MEES) to B. Bőthe.

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Contributions

Beáta Bőthe, Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel, and Sophie Bergeron were involved in the conception and design. Beáta Bőthe and Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel analyzed the data. Beáta Bőthe, Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel, and Sophie Bergeron interpreted the data. Beáta Bőthe drafted the article. Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel and Sophie Bergeron revised it critically for important intellectual content. Beáta Bőthe, Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel, and Sophie Bergeron contributed to the final approval of the version to be published.

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Correspondence to Beáta Bőthe.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the related university’s institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Bőthe, B., Vaillancourt-Morel, MP. & Bergeron, S. Hypersexuality in Mixed-Sex Couples: A Dyadic Longitudinal Study. Arch Sex Behav 50, 2139–2150 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-01959-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-01959-0

Keywords

  • Compulsive sexual behavior disorder
  • Couples
  • Emotion dysregulation
  • Hypersexuality
  • Intimacy